Vegetarian by Choice, Accidentally Vegan??

Going vegetarian was a very conscious and very intentional decision. We wanted to cut out meat from our diet, for not only ethical reasons but also health purposes, and after reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals it just seemed difficult to wrap our heads, and mouths, around eating meat. But now, 2 years later, it seems our diets have changed in ways we didn’t expect. Often we find that the delicious meal we’re eating is actually vegan– quite accidentally! About 18 months ago we switched from dairy milk to almond milk– honestly because neither D nor I drink milk fast enough to justify buying even a 1/2 gallon at a time. We found we’d throw out milk almost every time we bought a bottle, and after tasting almond milk (we like Blue Diamond’s unsweetened original best) we figured…why not?! We now use almond milk for cereal, smoothies, coffee, oatmeal, baking, and everywhere else you’d add milk. I also switched over to using flax eggs in most of my baking, just because I find it an easy replacement (we dedicated our old coffee grinder to the task of grinding our seeds each time we need them) and flax seeds are much easier to store than dozens of eggs! As a result, we really only eat eggs when we’re making something…eggy… fried eggs over hash browns, quiche, fried rice, etc! These replacements were conscious, but in all honesty, by no means were they a concerted effort to be vegan…they were just replacements that made sense in our lives. As I’ve mentioned, I don’t think I could ever go 100% vegan simply because I’d miss really good quality, small batch cheeses!

But it seems, week after week, that we end up cooking vegan! Last night’s meal was the perfect example of summer eating in our house– taking the backyard ‘crops’ and turning them into a delicious meal. Our garden is flourishing and in the past 5 days, we’ve harvested 2 eggplants, a spaghetti squash, a yellow squash, 5 bell peppers, 6 jalapenos, 2 beefsteak tomatoes, dozens of heirloom and cherry tomatoes, and handfuls of herbs. We did a bunch of work in the yard after work yesterday (a 2 day project–removing a huge shrub and the remaining root ball from the yard!) and it was just too hot to eat a heavy meal. Last night’s dinner was 99% home-grown (everything except the condiments and salt/pepper came from our yard) and accidentally vegan-  a win-win! Keep reading to see what other ‘accidentally vegan’ meals we’ve been cooking up!

With 'crops' in our own yard, it's easy to skip the grocery store produce section in the summer!

With ‘crops’ in our own yard, it’s easy to skip the grocery store produce section in the summer!

Spaghetti Squash with Balsamic Tomatoes 

1 cup spaghetti squash, cooked and flesh removed from skin

handful of tomatoes, any variety

fresh basil, torn or chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1 clove garlic

balsamic vinegar

olive oil

Put the tomatoes and fresh basil in a small bowl and drizzle with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper– let them sit and marinate. Coat a saute pan with olive oil and cook the garlic on medium-high heat just until it starts to release aroma. Add in the cooked spaghetti squash and coat with the garlic oil, then gently stir in the tomato mixture. Cook all ingredients together about 3-4 minutes, until the tomatoes soften. You could top it with fresh mozzarella cheese, but it’s fantastic as is, and very light!

Note: Our spaghetti squash was huge, so we cooked it up this weekend, pulled out the flesh, and will store it in the fridge for the week, pulling it out as needed. As a result, this meal took only as long to prepare as the saute pan took to heat up- if you’re cooking the spaghetti squash in the same night, it’ll be about an hour for cook time plus the time to assemble the dish.

Replace spaghetti squash for pasta in most recipes for a low-carb version!

Replace spaghetti squash for pasta in most recipes for a low-carb version!

 Morning Breakfast Smoothie

1 banana

1/4 cup almond milk

1 tsp flax seeds (whole is fine, the blender will chop them up)

heaping spoonful of almond or peanut butter

6-8 ice cubes

Mix all ingredients in a blender for a thick, creamy, and very filling morning smoothie!

 

Adapted from Bon Appetite's June 2014 version

Adapted from Bon Appetite’s June 2014 version

Barley and Fennel Salad

We modified Bon Appetite’s recipe from the June edition, removing the beets and red onion completely. Our vinaigrette was made with mostly freshly squeezed grapefruit juice instead of the vinegar, then just a dash of apple cider vinegar made up the remainder of the liquid in the dressing. This was tasty, filling, and had great texture between the crunch of the fennel and almonds compared to the soft barley. The mint came from our yard and we added some of the fennel fronds into the salad for some extra green and fennel flavor!

 

Our philosophy about a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle  is that reducing your animal product intake, even once a day or once a week, is better than nothing. Can you make that commitment? Can you acknowledge that not every meal needs a serving of meat, egg, cheese, or dairy? Try some of these recipes, or many of the other ones on the blog, to kick start a new kind of dining experience. Or better yet, take your favorite recipe and make it vegetarian/vegan- it’s a fun challenge and incredibly rewarding. And when it happens accidentally, it’s even more amazing! At the end of the day, adhering to a vegetarian lifestyle isn’t a sacrifice, it’s an opportunity to flip what you think about food 180 degrees. And when your ingredients happen to be as local as your backyard, or even a local family farm, you’ve got no reason not to.

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Deconstructed Hummus Salad (and another wedding!)

I rarely find inspiration from Pintrest, preferring instead to use my own creativity to spark an idea and then seek out instructions later on. I feel like by sharing the same ideas over and over, we dilute our own ability to think creatively and out of the box, relying instead on other people’s idea of what’s attainable and interesting. Pintrest is great for those people with an abundance of time, resources, and obscure household items lying around, but I really only turn to it when in wedding-planning mode (this time, it’s not mine—I’m proud to be a bridesmaid for my best friend N!)

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This was before I added on the zucchini– but YUM!

While in bridesmaid sleuthing mode this week, a certain picture caught my eye and I just couldn’t resist. I did draw the line at simply seeing the picture and said “I can figure that out”. My version is pretty different from the actual instructions (it called for a naked salad, without dressing, and who wants that!?) but one I know I’ll be repeating quite often when I’m craving Mediterranean flavors and can’t just gorge on pita now that it’s wedding diet time (again!) The variety of textures, of flavors, and even the contract of the cold kale and warm zucchini/chickpeas (if you’re impatient and don’t wait for them to cool, like I did!) was incredible and filling, but light. There’s good balance of protein and veggies, and you could even sprinkle some pita chips on top for some carbs/crunch. There’s nothing like a big salad to satisfy a specific craving for something otherwise not as healthy! As always, adjust the seasoning to your preferences—a dash of cayenne or chili powder would kick up the sauteed zucchini or chickpeas depending on how hot you like things.

Deconstructed Hummus Salad (serves 2, but easily doubled or tripled!)

2 large handfuls of kale, washed, deveined and chopped

Juice of 1 lemon, with a tsp reserved for presentation

1 clove garlic, minced or grated

2 tsp tahini

Salt

Pepper

½ red bell pepper, roasted (or 5-6 pieces of roasted red pepper from a jar)

1 zucchini, cut lengthwise then into half moons

1 can chickpeas, drained

Garlic powder

Paprika (not smoked)

 

Mix together the lemon juice, garlic, and tahini in a small bowl or Tupperware with a lid-mix together well. In a large bowl, combine the kale and red pepper and mix in the dressing—massage to coat completely.

In a large sauté pan, cook the zucchini on medium heat in olive oil with garlic powder and paprika to taste—a few shakes of each should coat the zucchini. Cook until softened then set aside to cool. Repeat with the chickpeas, cooking at a medium-high heat until they get a coating and start to crisp. Set aside to cool, then mix cooled zucchini and chickpeas into the kale and toss to integrate dressing throughout. Top with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

I’ve Got (Vegetarian) Friends in Low Places….

Food brings people together. It’s a universal language of yumminess that is understood no matter where you come from, no matter what you grew up eating, and no matter what language you speak. And yet too often, vegetarians are isolated in dining situations and made to feel as if their personal choices (whatever they may be) can be accommodated, not praised or valued. I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me feel less valued at a restaurant than the phrase “we can accommodate your vegetarian lifestyle”.

Luckily, one of the things we value most out of our vegetarianism is the fact that our friends and family are incredibly supportive. We have been able to maintain our lifestyle while enjoying some pretty fantastic food. Our friends truly respect our choices and understand that being vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean missing out on anything. We often dine out with non-vegetarian couples and order multiple dishes to share—there is no “this is my vegetarian entree” but rather “OUR vegetarian shared meal”. And we consider ourselves incredibly lucky to get to enjoy things like asparagus panzanella, a broccoli country captain, and green gumbo with great friends, good wine, and the amazing culinary team of Butcher&Bee at their most recent Lettuce Turnip the Beet vegan dinner.

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Spring Greens Ravioli with a Minted Pea Puree

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Spring Vegetable Succotash with peas, butterbeans, boiled peanuts, and Charleston gold rice

This weekend we also said goodbye to a close (vegetarian) friend as she heads across the Atlantic for the summer for professional and personal growth opportunities. In true Lowcountry style, an outdoor potluck was arranged and we feasted under the stars for hours on an entirely veggie-meal. We brought 2 different quinoa dishes (both vegan!) to compliment a green salad with pomegranate seeds, sunflower seeds, cherry tomatoes, hearts of palm, and cucumbers, plus a baked ziti. Here’s how to be the talk of your next potluck – hopefully it inspires you with some fun summer meals. With quinoa cooked up in advance and stored in the fridge for up to a week, these are also great weeknight dinners for the nights it’s just too hot to cook!

Baked Ziti, Salad, and Quinoa 2 ways-- happy friends all around!

Baked Ziti, Salad, and Quinoa 2 ways– happy friends all around!

Cold Quinoa Salad with Jicama and Corn (farthest right in the picture)

2 cups quinoa, cooked and cooled

1 medium jicama, diced finely*

¾ cup corn, either frozen or cooked kernels off the cob (depending how far in advance you’re making it, you can even throw the corn in frozen-it will thaw!)

½ jalapeno, seeded and finely diced OR2 dried jalapenos diced (soak in warm water to rehydrate)

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 TBSP apple cider vinegar

Shake of chili powder

1 tsp paprika

½ tsp garlic powder

Pinch of cayenne

1 tsp cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Mix the jalapeno, all spices, and oil in a small bowl or Tupperware container. Whisk or shake to combine. In a large bowl, combine quinoa with jicama and corn. Pour the dressing over and let sit for a few hours to absorb the flavors. Before serving, taste and re-season as needed.

*Jicama is also called a Mexican potato- it’s almost like a mix of a potato and an apple. It’s crunchy, a bit sweet, and fun to experiment with. Peel off the outer skin with a knife or vegetable peeler then cut into slices, stripes, and dice.

 

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad (center of the picture)

2 cups quinoa, cooked and cooled

1 large cucumber- peeled, seeded and diced

1 red bell pepper

¼ cup tahini

Juice of 2 lemons

Olive oil

1 clove garlic

Salt and pepper

Feta cheese (optional)

Cut the bell pepper into large pieces (remove the ribbing and seeds) and rub with olive oil. Char over a gas stove or grill (alternatively roast it in the oven) until softened and the skin is lightly blistered. Remove from heat and let cool, then dice. In a small bowl, mix tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and stream in olive oil until emulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste. In a large bowl, combine quinoa with cucumber and roasted red pepper. Pour dressing over the quinoa and toss to coat. Let sit in the fridge for 2-3 hours to let the flavors marinate. Add in feta cheese if you’re not worried about being vegan—the saltiness and creaminess is a great complement!

 

Having a strong support system is one of the most essential components to enjoying a vegetarian lifestyle instead of feeling like its an uphill battle with society. With close friends who understand our dietary choices, we’ve been able to not only maintain our social lifestyle but also share our values and passions with others in a very non-confrontational, non-proselytizing way. And when there’s good food on the table, it’s hard to not enjoy the friendship of those around you!

Vegetarian Passover (part 1)

It’s been quite a spring, and between being wildly over scheduled (my fault) and having log-in issues to WordPress (I’ll blame someone else for that) my blogging took a Spring Break. That’s not to say we haven’t been eating some fabulous and ethically-friendly meals (my lentil ‘meatballs’ served double duty when we broke them up into marina sauce and had ‘meat sauce’ over pasta) but it was admittedly nice to take a breather from writing for a few weeks.

But we’re back now and with a topic so big it could fill 8 posts! Passover is the 8 day Jewish spring festival that commemorates the Jewish people’s escape from slavery in Egypt. If you’ve seen Prince of Egypt, you get the gist.

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What that means for us is 8 days without leavened items…although in 2014 quite a few steps have been taken through chemicals, food engineering, and creativity to allow for recipes that attempt to satisfy Jewish American’s standards while adhering to the religious rules and restrictions of the holiday. You can now find Kosher for Passover brownie mixes, cake mix, boxes of cereal, and pretty much anything you’d want to ‘survive’ the 8 days. While that’s all well and good for those who wish to spend hundreds on a week’s worth of groceries, have food labels with a font impossibly small to accommodate all of the unusual ingredients, and pump their bodies with unnecessary chemicals, we use this as a week to eat cleanly and kick start our bodies for the warmer months.

We first decided to become vegetarian during Passover 3 years ago. As such, this is only our 2nd year being vegetarian during Passover, and we love the challenge. The sum of it is that as an Ashkenazic Jew, you’re not able to eat any wheat, barley, corn, rice, beans, soy, or any products derived from those products. For a CliffNotes version, check out this BuzzFeed article for everything that’s prohibited and most typically craved! In recent years quinoa has been approved by even the most strict of rabbis, so quinoa and eggs are our primary source of protein for the week with potatoes fulfilling my starch cravings! In the coming days I’ll go into more depth about what we eat, including snacks and dessert (yes, you CAN eat dessert on Passover and it doesn’t have to taste like sawdust!)

The seder is the traditional festival meal that occurs on the first 2 nights of the holiday. It involves the telling of the story of the Exodus, the eating of certain foods that are reflective of our history (parsley dipped in salt water to remind us of the tears of slavery, haroset (a mixture of chopped apples and nuts) to remind us of the mortar used to build pyramids, and horseradish indicative of the way the Israelites’ lives were embittered by the Egyptians, to name a few), and a festive meal celebrated between family and friends. While we couldn’t take pictures due to the religious nature of the meal, here’s what we had on our table:

  • Thai Butternut Squash soup (we increased the amount of curry paste just a bit to give it more of a kick!)
  • Matzo Balls (S’s mom was nice enough to keep a few separate from the chicken soup so we could have them!)
  • Sweet Potato Casserole
    Combine 5 cooked sweet potatoes with 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 3 TBSP orange juice. Put in a baking dish and top with whole pecans, then place a few thin butter pats on top and lightly sprinkle with brown sugar. Cook until warmed throughout and browned on top-the butter should be melted.
  • Kale and Quinoa Salad
    Mix the juice of 1 orange with 1 tsp dijon mustard, 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Drizzle in approximately 1/4 cup of olive oil and either whisk to combine or shake in a tight-fitting lidded container until emulsified. In a large bowl, combine kale (destemmed, washed, and cut into small pieces) with 1 cup of cooked quinoa. Add in a handful of dried blueberries and a handful of pine nuts. Top with vinaigrette and toss to coat– let sit for at least 30 minutes to absorb all flavors.
  • Criss Cross Potatoes
    Cut baking potatoes in half lengthwise so that you have two shallow ‘boat’ shaped pieces per potato. Slice 1/4 inch deep into the flesh of the potato making 4-5 parallel slits going in the same direction, then make 4-5 more slits in the opposite direction so that you create a diamond pattern. In a small bowl, mix garlic powder and paprika into melted margarine/butter–amounts will vary depending on how many potatoes you’re making. Brush or spoon butter mixture onto cross-hatched potatoes and bake cut-side DOWN at 350 degrees until potatoes are cooked throughout.
  • Green Beans Almondine
    Saute slivered almonds in margarine (or butter, if you’re not keeping kosher) until toasted and set aside in a serving bowl. Steam green beans (preferably haricot verte) until tender but still crisp, then add to same serving bowl as almonds. Toss to coat and serve
  • Zippy Zucchini (we used the recipe from this page)
  • Mushroom Farfalle Kugel (made by a family friend, recipe unknown but DELICIOUS!)

There was chicken soup, turkey, brisket, and fish as well (for those who haven’t gone completely veggie yet), but otherwise the entire meal was vegetarian/vegan and everyone was full and happy. Dessert will come in another post (you won’t want to miss that!) but even before we moved on to sweets, the consensus around the table was one of extreme satisfaction. The best way to truly experience Passover is to enjoy what you’re eating and putting in your body- not feel like you’re suffering though the holiday. Once our people were slaves, but now we are free and most importantly, have the freedom of choice regarding our diets.

Chag Sameach and Shavua Tov!

Note: Due to our geographical limitations and personal religious/dietary priorities, we keep strictly Kosher for Passover in terms of the ingredients we eat and cook with. We do not require a Kosher for Passover hecsure on each product during Passover, only require that the ingredients themselves are kosher to eat during Passover. We did have seder at S’s mom’s house, and she keeps completely Kosher, so for the purposes of these recipes everything was pareve.

The Summer of Kale

Since I didn’t grow up in the South, eating ‘greens’ doesn’t come naturally. I ate plenty of iceberg and romaine, not to mention spinach, growing up, but chard, kale, collards, and the like just didn’t cross my plate until I moved to SC. After we became vegetarian, I didn’t know how I would do greens without a hamhock or bacon, so I just kinda steered clear entirely until this summer.

This week, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs in the produce department and we ended up with an enormous bag of kale–and there’s only so many kale chips a girl can eat! We went with a version of a prior spinach salad with a combo I’ve been dying to try–pine nuts and blueberries!

Blueberry Kale Salad

Blueberry Kale Salad

Blueberry Kale Salad with BBQ Tempeh

kale, washed and deribbed

lemon juice

olive oil

dried blueberries

toasted pine nuts

shaved slices of Parmesan

blueberry dressing from our spinach salad

tempeh

BBQ sauce (your favorite brand)

Massage the cut up kale with olive oil and lemon juice to break down the fibers and soften it. Meanwhile,  cut your tempeh thinly and broil with BBQ sauce until crispy (see prior post for instructions). Let tempeh cool, then add to kale along with the blueberries, pine nuts, and parmesan- top with the blueberry dressing. The flavors combine amazingly (is that even a word) but even better, the kale holds up overnight so it’s great for lunch the next day! The saltiness of the cheese, nuttiness of the pine nuts, and sweet/tartness of the blueberries combine perfectly with the slight bitterness of the kale. MMMM

As if this wasn’t enough kale, we put it on tonight’s pizza. Bear with me—this is good 😉

pizza

Kale Pizza

whole wheat pizza dough (either store bought or homemade)

BBQ sauce (your favorite brand)

red onion, sliced thinly

green bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

broccoli cut into small florets

(optional) Buffalo chik’n nuggets, cooked about halfway through and cut into 1/4 inch pieces

mozzerella cheese

kale, washed/deribbed and chopped into small pieces (massage with a small amount of lemon juice to soften)

Spread pizza dough out on a greased cookie sheet that’s been turned UPSIDE DOWN. It goes against all logic, but makes the best crust if you don’t have a pizza stone. (Ours is patiently waiting on our BBB registry ;-)) Spread BBQ sauce on the dough evenly, then top with onions, pepper, and broccoli. Add the chik’n nuggets if you’re using. Sprinkle about 1/2 of your cheese over top and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.

Pull the pizza out and top with your kale (you shouldn’t have put enough lemon juice on it to have a pool at the bottom, but if you DID, then drain so you don’t dump that on the pizza!), then the remainder of the cheese. Continue baking for another 5-8 minutes, until the crust is crispy (and sounds ‘hollow’ when you tap on it) and the cheese is lightly browned. Remove from the oven, let it cool, and serve.

OH MY GOODNESS. You wouldn’t even know there was kale on it if you weren’t told– it just kind of seemlessly melts into the other toppings. The lemon from the kale is a good acidity against the natural sweetness of the veggies and BBQ sauce, and the red onion adds a little bit of a bite. The chik’n nuggets we used contributed some heat, and the cheese is gooey and mellows things out.

Once you make homemade pizza, it’s difficult to go back to anything else–short of a few FANTASTIC local places doing thin crust, brick oven specialty pies, we don’t even bother eating pizza out anymore. It’s cheaper and healthier to do it at home and you know your ingredients are reputable. Who says pizza night has to be an ordeal or require jumping in the car/calling for takeout? Personalize your pizzas with YOUR favorite veggies for a date night or family meal that’s easy even after a full work day. You won’t regret it!

Sweet summer eating and vegetarian karma

Summer in coastal SC means great produce and HOT weather. As a result, our meals get just a little bit lighter and I’ll do whatever it takes to avoid turning the oven on after a hot day!

We got some great local corn from our CSA bag last week and found a fantastic pineapple at the grocery store. One of my favorite meals growing up was steak and fresh grilled veggies, and I would be content now to just eat corn and pineapple for dinner, but D is a stickler for balance and protein 😉 We pressed some tofu last weekend and put together a dry rub for a fantastic, easy mid-week dinner.

grill-centric dinner!

grill-centric dinner!

Southwestern Tofu with Grilled Corn and Pineapple

tofu rub (or your favorite taco seasoning packet)

  • smoked paprika
  • chili powder
  • garlic powder
  • cumin

1 block of pressed tofu

1/2 a pineapple- cut into rounds

1 ear of corn per person

1 lime, cut into quarters

Mix the dry rub together and spread on the pressed tofu. Let sit for 6 hours or as long as needed–we had ours sitting for 2-3 days. Heat up a grill (or grill pan, if you’re grilling indoors) and add your tofu, pineapple, and corn. I like grilling corn husk-free because of the char you get on the kernels, but some people prefer grilling in the husk and stripping it off after–it’s a personal preference! We don’t add anything to our corn or pineapple—you just don’t need to if they’re fresh!

Flip the tofu and pineapple once to get a good char on both sides. Roll/rotate the corn until all sides are toasted. Pull off all items when fully cooked — serve with a lime wedge. I love summer corn with some fresh cilantro and lime juice (but our cilantro plant died while we were out of town for July 4!) and the lime really adds a fresh kick to the tofu.

Dry-rubbing tofu like this gives it a lot of depth to the flavor profile, and since you can marinade it as long as needed, it’s a great fall-back dinner option to have in the fridge for last minute meals. Your only prep time for dinner is cutting the pineapple, potentially shucking the corn, and the grilling time– it’s a quick, healthy, and summer-friendly meal for busy nights.

Kale Salad with broiled tempeh

When it’s truly too hot to cook, this is my new favorite meal. Most vegetarians have a reduced iron intake due to the lack of red meat in their diets, I too find it difficult to maintain my iron level-The American Red Cross is probably getting exasperated with my continued attempts to donate blood or platelets, only to find that my levels are just barely too low to be eligible. This salad is a light dinner at the end of a hot day, and when topped with tempeh, gives a great combination of vitamins and protein. It takes no more than 15 minutes to pull together and is filling and satisfying!

Crispy tempeh bites on a crisp and fresh kale bed

Crispy tempeh bites on a crisp and fresh kale bed

Kale dressing:

  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce
  • mirin
  • rice wine vinegar
  • black and white sesame seeds

kale, washed and de-veined

tempeh, cut into thin strips

tempeh ‘sauce’:

  • hoisin
  • lime juice

Rib the kale to remove the tough stems and wash thoroughly. Rip or cut into small pieces, then leave to dry. Mix together the kale dressing and pour over kale– you’ll need to sort of massage the dressing onto the kale in order for the dressing to begin to break down the fibers of the kale and soften it a bit. It feels weird at first, but spend a few minutes working your (clean) fingers around the leaves in the bowl and you’ll start to notice the volume of the kale shrinking down.

Then (or meanwhile, if you’re lucky enough to have a kitchen helper) take your mixture of hoisin and lime juice and brush it on one side of the tempeh slices- see our prior post about these tempeh ‘jerky’ pieces. Broil for a few minutes *we used the toaster oven instead of heating up the real oven) until crispy, then flip, brush the opposite side, and broil again.

Top your lightly-wilted kale with these sweet and slightly crispy tempeh pieces for an easy, light dinner. You could add nuts to the kale, some dried berries, or some sprouts, shredded carrots, or anything else to doctor it up a bit but I like the flavors of these together without anything else. A local favorite, Butcher and Bee, does a fantastic kale salad with benne seeds that was the inspiration for this dish– if you’re anywhere near Charleston definitely check them out! Their menu changes daily and can be found on their Facebook page minutes before they open!

and finally, vegetarian karma: While attending a friend’s wedding this weekend, D and I were a bit nervous- this was the first time we’d attended such a function while vegetarian and didn’t know what to expect. We marked ‘vegetarian’ on our response card, but know that everyone’s version of vegetarian is different–I wasn’t thrilled about the potential of a big bowl of pasta with marinara! We were pleasantly surprised at the cocktail hour and were able to eat everything but 1 item– we feasted on mini bruschetta, stuffed baby portobella caps, lavish cheese plates, fresh fruit, and crustinis. When it came for the dinner, we were greeted by a great green salad with pecans, nectarines, and (what we think were) mangos, served with a balsamic dressing. By dinner things had already surpassed my expectations for my-first-wedding-as-a-vegetarian, but we happened to be seated with a vegan couple (the wonderful Sarah of WhatIVegan) and 2 couples who ordered the steak/fish options for dinner and found that even our meat-eaters at the table preferred the vegetarian option! It was a tower of a portobello mushroom, grilled red pepper, grilled yellow squash, and grilled eggplant over grits and with a side of asparagus–yum! Just goes to show that eating vegetarian doesn’t always mean sacrificing flavor, quality, or a pleasant dining experience— vegetarians have more fun! (can I get a t-shirt made with that?)

D is  out of town this coming week, so let’s see how strong my willpower is to keep creating (and posting) what I’m eating while on bachelorette mode. I have a reputation for living on various iterations of potatoes while single (even before my vegetarian days…I just love potatoes!) so if nothing else, I’ll get ONE post up to prove to D that I can cook for one and that he’s missing out while gone!

Dinner by the seat of your pants

For as much as we all try to plan– whether that be our lives, our day, or simply our next meal- sometimes you just need to take a step back, take a breath, and let things happen. As the epitome of a Type-A personality, sometimes that’s easier said than done….no matter how many times it’s said 😉

Last week we had D’s sister visiting us in town and D was preparing to leave for an out of town wedding this weekend, and by no fault of either of us, planning dinner for the week just didn’t happen. D and his sister had a few great meals at veggie-friendly restaurants and we grabbed a quick dinner out before heading to see a movie one night, but otherwise we played the ever-unsettling “make do with what’s in the refrigerator right now” game….it was not only stress-free, but delicious and helped avoid any food going to waste!

This salad was a perfect summer dinner!

Look at all of that blueberry goodness!

Summer Spinach Salad with Blueberry Dressing

Blueberries
Balsamic
olive oil
Fresh basil
Salt and pepper

Spinach leaves
ripe peaches
goat cheese
toasted walnuts
thinly sliced tempeh, broiled (check out our earlier post for the technique)

Blend the first 5 ingredients in a blender or immersion blender until creamy and smooth. Adjust seasoning as desired– you don’t want the balsamic to overpower the blueberries, but do want it to cut the sweetness.

Toss a few handfuls of spinach per person with sliced peaches, pieces of your favorite goat cheese, toasted walnuts (or pinenuts would be good), and thinly sliced tempeh. Drizzle the dressing over to your desired coating—I drenched it because I couldn’t get enough of the dressing! Blueberries tend to get gelatinous when blended, so if that happens before you’re ready to serve, don’t panic.

Seriously–everything great about summer is in this salad. The spinach is a little peppery (but would be more so if you used arugula), the peaches are juicy and sweet, the nuts are crunchy and have a deep flavor from the toasting, and the goat cheese adds a creaminess and tart aspect. The dressing has tang, sweetness, and great texture from the blueberry seeds–just a fantastic combination, if we do say so ourselves! My favorite part was that it was all pulled out of the fridge not 20 minutes before we sat down to eat!

Later in the week we found ourselves with some pattypan squash (thanks to D’s impulsive grocery shopping), mushrooms, and leftover brown rice. One of last summer’s favorite dishes were squash ‘boats’ with zucchini (our garden this year fell victim to bugs, so I’ve ripped out my plants and re-planted–we will soon have more zucchini than we know what to do with!) so we  did a twist on that using pattypan.

So simple looking, but such fun flavors in that little squash

So simple looking, but such fun flavors in that little squash

Stuffed PattyPan Squash

1 pattypan squash per person
onion
mushroom
grated tempeh
vegetarian worcestershire (regular has anchovies in it)
dried thyme
balsamic dressing
cooked brown rice

Saute the onions, chopped mushrooms, and tempeh in a saucepan with some olive oil, worcestershire, thyme, and balsamic dressing until soft– you don’t want the mixture soggy, just flavored by the sauces and herbs. When cooked down, add brown rice to the pan so that you have about a 50:50 ratio of vegetables to rice. Turn off the heat and let it warm throughout.

Wash the pattypans and cut just about 1/4-1/2 of an inch off the top and bottom. You want the bottom cut off so that the squash sits flat, and want just a little bit of the top cut off so that you can scrape the inside. Take a spoon and hollow out the squash- you want to leave the walls and bottom about 1/4-1/2 inch thick so the filling doesn’t spill out; try to avoid putting holes in the squash 😉 If desired, you could chop up the squash innards and add them to the rice mixture for some extra veggies.

Fill the now-empty squash with the rice and vegetable mixture. We pushed a few pieces of goat cheese into the filling for a fun surprise inside- make sure it’s covered with rice so it doesn’t burn in the oven. Cook at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until the squash is soft and easily cut. Dig in with a sharp knife and a fork–enjoy!